December 9, 2003
ATLANTA-U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today announced a new national public-private partnership to combat low safety belt use among the nation's 11 million truck drivers. The announcement was prompted by a new national study released by the Secretary that found only 48 percent of all commercial vehicle drivers wear safety belts.
"If you are one of the more than five and a half million truck drivers who choose not to wear your safety belt, I have a message for you. Uncle Sam wants you, no, needs you to buckle up," Secretary Mineta said at an event in Atlanta. "Today, we launch the broadest effort this country has ever seen to get truckers to wear their safety belts."
Nationally, 79 percent of passenger vehicle drivers wear safety belts. In comparison, the low number of truck drivers buckling up has taken a severe toll. In 2002, of the 588 commercial drivers killed in crashes more than half were not wearing safety belts. Of the 171 drivers who were ejected from their trucks, almost 80 percent of them were not wearing safety belts.
Last year trucks moved over seven trillion dollars worth of clothes, food and everyday products across the nation's highways, underscoring the need to reduce the impact of truck crashes.
"You cannot be fully in control of your truck unless you are wearing a safety belt," said Ralph Hamilton, a commercial truck driver for Old Dominion Freight Line and a captain in "America's Road Team." America's Road Team is a national public outreach program led by professional truck drivers who have superior driving skills, remarkable safety records, and a strong desire to spread the word about safety on the highway. The program is sponsored by the American Trucking Associations.
The new partnership will involve the Transportation Department, drivers, trucking companies, and law enforcement in the largest ever effort to combat dramatically low safety belt usage in the trucking community. The partnership will focus on educating truck drivers about the critical importance of wearing a safety belt. Partners will provide safety belt messages to 1,200 truck stops throughout the nation, produce and distribute printed educational material at association events and roadside inspection facilities, and sponsor additional research, as needed.
"Some commercial drivers tell us they do not want to buckle up because they think the size of their rigs will keep them safe," Annette M. Sandberg, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said. "The grim reality is that when it comes to saving lives every one of us, especially truck drivers, needs to buckle up."
In addition to the Transportation Department, the new partnership will include the American Trucking Associations, the Motor Freight Carriers Association, the National Private Truck Council, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.
As part of today's announcement, Secretary Mineta signed the agreement making the new partnership official. Also signing were Administrator Sandberg; American Trucking Associations President and CEO Governor Bill Graves; Motor Freight Carriers Association President and CEO Timothy P. Lynch; National Private Truck Council President and CEO Gary Petty; Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association President James Johnston; and Stephen Campbell, Executive Director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.
FMCSA's goal for the United States is to reduce the large truck fatality rate by 41 percent from 1996 to 2008. This reduction translates into a rate of 1.65 fatalities in truck crashes per 100 million miles of truck travel. For five consecutive years, large truck-related fatalities have decreased. This nationwide initiative will help continue that momentum.
Additional information about the report is available on the Internet at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safetybelt.
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